Book Review: The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman is a beautifully written novel about making difficult choices and how these choices can affect the lives of others. Often, the distinction between right and wrong is not always clear. Themes of isolation, morality, love and relationships are evident in this book. Stedman’s novel, powerful psychological fiction, shows us how we come to be who we are, how we think, and what may influence our decisions.

Tom Sherbourne returns home to Australia after being in the war on the Western Front. He takes a job as lighthouse keeper on the remote island, Janus Rock, and later brings a young wife, Isabel. “On clear summer days, Janus seems to stretch up right to its tiptoes: you’d swear it’s higher out of the water at some times than at others, not just because of the rising and ebbing of the tide.” Stedman writes descriptively about the beauty of the ocean and the night sky. “There are times when the ocean is not the ocean-not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon.” Often, you might look skyward on the tiny island and notice the turning of the light, millions of stars forming constellations and filling the night sky with hope and promise. In the beginning, Tom writes to Isabel about the stars in the night sky and says “the sky gets crowded at night, and it is a bit like watching a clock, seeing the constellations slide across the sky.” You will read about striking landscapes and lavish sunsets.

After having two miscarriages, Isabel hears a strange cry on an early morning breeze. A boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant. All at once, Isabel knows the baby is a beautiful tiny miracle, a gift sent from God. Now, what would you do in this situation? Isabel promises to love the tiny baby and keep it safe.

Tom is very meticulous, detail oriented and wants to report the man and baby immediately. However, Tom can detect that Isabel has formed an attachment to the infant. Tom is uneasy about the situation but agrees that they will raise the baby as their own. Over time, Isabel becomes even more attached to baby Lucy. However, he did not know exactly how attached she would become and how far she would go with her love for this baby. Lucy, it seems, was a tiny miracle. Isabel and Tom work very hard and time passes. Eventually, Tom and Isabel take Lucy and return to the mainland. They discover that their choices have far reaching consequences.

You will certainly find yourself thinking about this book and the characters after you finish. Stedman writes descriptively about the characters and wild landscape. He writes with emotion, leaving you with questions about choices that are made and feeling as though you really know the characters. Perhaps we affect the lives of others more than we know. This book is thought provoking, deeply moving and heartbreaking. Actually, you will feel a whole range of emotions. I absolutely loved the detailed descriptions of the sky and landscape. I enjoy a book that is thought provoking and one that leaves you with questions. As with any good book, you will feel as if you are somewhat changed after you finish.  I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves literary fiction, psychological fiction or novels about relationships.